Ep. 99: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad | Colorado travel RV camping
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Ep. 99: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad | Colorado travel RV camping

August 13, 2019


Hey folks, welcome back to Grand Adventure!
I’m your host Marc Guido, and we are returning today to Silverton! But this
time we’re going to take a different way to get there. Stay tuned! RVers traveling through southwestern
Colorado are often drawn to ride aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge
Railroad, a three-foot narrow gauge heritage railway that operates 45 miles
of track between the towns of Durango and Silverton paralleling the southern
half of the Million Dollar Highway. If you haven’t yet seen our a Million
Dollar Highway episode, we’ll put a link right here on the screen so that you may
go back and check it out. Durango Depot was built in January 1882 and has been
preserved in its original form. All seating is reserved.
Passengers may choose between vintage coach seating or open air observation
gondola seating. Standard class round-trip fares range from $89 to $99 for adults, and $55 to $65 for
children. For a little bit more, guests may take a one-way train from Durango to
Silverton and return to Durango aboard a bus. We’re accompanied by our Vermonter
friends Colin and Abby, with whom we’re traveling and camping for a bit, as well
as their daughter Kari. The route was originally opened in 1882 by the Denver
& Rio Grande Railway as an extension of the narrow gauge line from Antonito
to Durango, to transport silver and gold ore mined from the San Juan Mountains.
Trains have run continuously on this line since 1881, although it is now a
tourist and heritage line hauling passengers, and is only one of the few
places in the U.S. that has seen continuous use of steam locomotives.
Today’s Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was formed in March 1981
and exclusively runs coal-fired steam trains. Some of the rolling stock dates
back to the 1880s. Trains operate in winter from Durango to the Cascade Wye, and
on to Silverton only in the summer months as numerous avalanche paths reach the
tracks north of Cascade Canyon. Today we’re riding the first
train into Silverton of the season. As the train heads north from Durango, hosts
in period costumes assume the character of the region’s past residents to share
the area’s history, along with the railroad’s, as well as to answer questions
from passengers. After leaving the flag stop at Rockwood
the train is the only ground transportation into the Animas Canyon.
Here the train winds onto the Highline, a famous section of the railroad where
the train crawls along the face of high cliffs. At this trestle the engine crew blows
down the engine to clean sediment from the boiler, and the train reaches a track
speed of 15 miles per hour for the rest of the route into Silverton. The railway is a federally designated
National Historic Landmark, and is also designated by the American Society of
Civil Engineers as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Former Union
General William Jackson Palmer came to Colorado after managing the construction
of the Kansas Pacific Railroad into Denver in 1870. Prior to the war he had
risen within the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad, serving as
Secretary to the president. After arriving in Denver he formulated a plan
to build a narrow gauge railroad southward from Denver to El Paso ,Texas,
and those plans were eventually expanded to include extensions throughout the
booming mining country of central and southwestern Colorado. After the Denver
& Rio Grande reached Durango in August 1881, construction began that fall on the
rail’s extension into Silverton. Construction was finished only 11
months later, and trains immediately began hauling both passengers and
freight. After hauling an estimated 300 million dollars’ worth of precious metals,
with the decline of mining revenues the railroad struggled until a summer
tourist train began running on the Silverton branch in 1947. Today the
Silverton branch and the nearby Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad are the only
remaining remnants of the Denver & Rio Grande’s once extensive narrow gauge
system. Here at Tank Creek, the engine stops to take on water. The fireman
tops off the tender, taking on around 4,000 gallons of water, as the engineer
oils around the engine and inspects machinery and bearings. Here we pass one of the debris piles
left by one of the many avalanches that struck the tracks over the winter. Crews
worked for weeks to clear this particular slide for the trains to pass. After nearly four hours on board our
train arrives in the heart of tiny Silverton, Colorado. Although this
historic mining town is home to only a few hundred residents today, it was once
so prosperous that it was only the second town in the U.S. to receive
electrical service. It nevertheless still has only one paved street. We chose to lunch at the Avalanche
Brewing Company, which serves delicious pizzas, wraps, salads and homemade soups
alongside its namesake selection of handcrafted beers. After an hour and a half to explore the
town and grab a bite to eat, it was time to reboard the train for the four-hour
return trip to Durango. Engine 476 is a K-28 class locomotive
designed for freight service along the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Built in
1923 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of the American Locomotive Company in
Schenectady, New York, its tractive effort is rated at 28,000
pounds of force, and weighs over 254,000 pounds,
or 127 tons. Smaller than the railroad’s K-36 class locomotives, they’re often used
on the route’s shorter trains, usually the first or last on the schedule. Out of the
original ten 470s used by the Denver & Rio Grande, only three remain,
and all are owned by the Durango & Silverton railroad. The other seven were
requisitioned by the United States Army in 1942 to be used on the White Pass &
Yukon route in Alaska during World War II. They were later dismantled for scrap
in 1946. This locomotive 476 saw extensive service on the San Juan
passenger train that ran between Durango, Colorado and Alamosa, Colorado
until 1951, and began service on the Silverton branch in the 1950s. So for our trip to Durango we had planned
to boondock off of Madden Peak Road, where we stayed last year when we
visited Mesa Verde. However, the roads — the Forest Service
roads — aren’t open yet, so we ended up camping instead in Mancos State Park. The
US Bureau of Reclamation commissioned the Jackson Gulch Dam in 1948 , and Mancos
State Park — set at an elevation of 7,800 feet, with beautiful views of the nearby
La Plata Mountains — was officially established in 1987 along the shores of
Jackson Gulch Reservoir. Camping is available year-round and is divided
between two dry campgrounds, with the main campground set in a pine forest
just east of the dam, and a few other sites scattered along the west side of
the lake, best suited for tenters. Sites include a picnic table and fire ring.
Potable water is available in the main campground, and a dump station is
included in the camping fee for use on the way out.
Vault toilets are scattered throughout the main campground, but there are no
showers. This is dry camping for $18 a night. We’d be a little less enthralled
with this opportunity were it not for the fact that the campground is nearly empty.
We’re right on the shores of beautiful Jackson Lake and this has been actually
a great stay. We’re looking forward to the rest of our state here in Macos State
Park. So, we hope you enjoyed riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge
Railroad with us! It’s a wonderful tourist attraction here in southwestern
Colorado, and a great way to get a glimpse of the charming town of
Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. If you’re not yet a Grand Adventurer, now’s
the time to smash that little red subscribe button down there in the
corner, and ring that notification bell! If you liked this video, please give us a
thumbs up down below! Also down below you will find our comments section where we
always love to hear from you. Now, next we’re going to be visiting Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments here in southwestern
Colorado and southeastern Utah. We air new outdoor adventure videos
each and every Wednesday. We’d therefore be honored if you shared
Grand Adventure with your friends and family, and on social media.
Until next week please remember … life is nothing but a Grand Adventure! We’ll
see you soon!

34 Comments

  • Reply Bruce H May 16, 2019 at 1:50 am

    That was a great presentation of the Silverton Railroad.  The photography and narration captured it the way I remembered it when I took the tour year ago. 

    One thing that I found interesting the time I did it was the railroad actually had "conventional" passenger service.  They had drop off points for backpackers that would get off mid route to do a backpack trip for several days.  They would then return to pickup points at the end of their hike and the train would stop and load them aboard.  It was a great way for hikers to get in some very remote areas.

  • Reply Spell Madam May 16, 2019 at 1:54 am

    Another great Grand Adventure. Spectacular footage. Thanks again

  • Reply Where's Bobby May 16, 2019 at 2:06 am

    Great footage and narrative.

  • Reply william keil May 16, 2019 at 2:17 am

    Excellent video as always, I will definitely be taking that tour for sure.

  • Reply Colorado Kayaking & RV May 16, 2019 at 2:18 am

    Hey, I seen Mrs. Grand Adventure at the snack bar. My wife keeps trying to get me on that train. Is the lake at Mancos State Park a good lake for kayaking?

  • Reply Mike Carroll May 16, 2019 at 2:27 am

    Another great video. I have been there several times over the years. Always a great time.

  • Reply CharlesinGA May 16, 2019 at 3:06 am

    D&S RR is looking at converting the locomotives to oil. The UP has converted all three of their steam locomotives to #5 fuel oil. Its safer as it does not generate cinders that could cause a fire. Last year it was rumored that the D&S has caused the nearby fires, but that WAS NOT true, but it does concern management enough to have recently brought in Southern Pacific #18 "Slim Princess", a narrow gauge oil fired locomotive to experiment with oil fired operation.

  • Reply journey2fifty May 16, 2019 at 3:49 am

    Congratulations on 10k subs! Very much deserved. Keep uploading!

  • Reply Ivan Nava May 16, 2019 at 9:40 am

    What an amazing video! Those views never get old 🏔many thanks 🙂

  • Reply Pat Maufrais May 16, 2019 at 11:05 am

    Enjoyed your video!!

  • Reply Tom Bohley May 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    I discovered your channel a while ago and I am hooked! Great narration and photography. I appreciate your insight and intelligent delivery. (And you even know how to pronounce “potable”!) Keep up the great work.

  • Reply Rod B May 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Vicki and I went on a trip to Ouray a few years ago and we took a drive over to Silverton. Our original plan was to take several of the high mountain trails and drop into Lake City. However when we got to Silverton we found out about Railfest in Durango. With me being a train nut our plans immediately changed and we went to Durango instead. There were numerous steam locomotives and a Galloping Goose up and running there. It was impressive seeing all of the engines, people in period garb, buildings and historical railroad materials. We ended up having a great time! The one thing that we have not done yet is actually take the train between Durango and Silverton, but it is on our list. Thanks for another well produced video and story!

  • Reply Gavin Streetie May 16, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Yes we really did enjoy our railroad adventure today , the scenery was amazing , it’s not a short journey either to silverton I think you quoted 4 hrs but hey what a great way to spend 4 hrs , would really like to go into the salon at silverton , do they change the engine at silverton or use the same one ?
    Thanks for sharing G&Z

  • Reply Leonard Marlborough May 16, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Still looking forward to riding that train…

  • Reply Jimmie Butt May 16, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    Great job of historical narration of this railroad. You always do a great job of presenting the information about the site you are visiting. And as always, just absolutely great video footage. Stunning. Keep up the excellent work.

  • Reply Tom Austin May 16, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Another awesome video Mark👍😎 adding this train ride and camping area to my wish list. How’s the hiking in the park y’all used? 🚌🌎😎 thanks for sharing and safe travels ⛰🏖🏃🏻‍♂️🏃🏻‍♂️🥾🥾🐿🌲

  • Reply NonRev May 16, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Wow the views from the train 🚂 are so awesome 👏. And Silverton looks like a cool little town. Another Grand Adventure for sure.

  • Reply Randy Waller May 16, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Marc… was unable to watch you live last night. Durango, Silverton and Teluride are among my favorite places on earth. After God's country here in Iowa. Have been there many times. Rafting the Animas River and mountain biking the San Juan Mountains are special memories for me. Looks just like I remember it. Congrats on reaching 10,000 subscribers. The quality of your channel speaks for itself. Keep up the good work.
    I know it's a bit off your track. But the Iowa State Fair is Aug 9th thru 19th. You should consider spending a few days here. It's well worth the time. And falls in the middle of sweet corn season. Hot and humid with occasional crazy thunder storms, but still my favorite time of the year.
    Looking forward to next week. Have fun always and safe travels.
    Randy in Des Moines. 👍🌎✌

  • Reply lnazworth May 16, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    Great video! Always enjoy the history you include.

  • Reply N L H May 17, 2019 at 1:22 am

    👍🏻

  • Reply Amy Jo Sutterfield May 17, 2019 at 1:54 am

    when you use BLM do you ever worry about leaving your set up? do you leave it set up?

  • Reply ImprovDebi May 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    This one got added to my Wanderlust map. Thanks

  • Reply MOVO Photo May 17, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Fantastic video; definitely a trip worth taking!! Thanks so much for sharing the link to our MB700

  • Reply Karen English May 17, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    We didn't get to take the train ride as we weren't in SW CO. Thanks so much for all the information you share about the places you explore and including historical facts.

  • Reply Mark Lester May 18, 2019 at 2:13 am

    Another great video, as always. And this year, we get to be in that area. Thanks, Marc!

  • Reply don dartt May 18, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Another great Grand Adventure video. I learn a lot from you and will travel to this place when we retire.

  • Reply lost weekends caravan May 19, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Hi Marc. Loved the Railway reminded us of our trip and the North Conway Railway in NH. Thanks all the historical facts in your narration and beautiful scenery. Thanks again Phil and Juliet👍🙂

  • Reply Buffalo Dan May 20, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    I love your video's. On this train do they allow pets on the train if not what do you do with your dogs if you can't take them

  • Reply flmlm777 May 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Thanks so much for this video! We have reservations for the train in June. Additional all your historical commentary is appreciated….happy trails

  • Reply Chris Bellofatto May 23, 2019 at 12:15 am

    Marc, great job as always. Informative, educational and breathtaking scenery. My wife, Katrina and I look forward to your weekly videos and you continue to inspire us to enjoy the outdoors! Thanks so much for all the work and continued success

  • Reply Roy Stoddard May 24, 2019 at 2:53 am

    Great Job!!!! You have captured the feel of the RR and our backyard! The Southwest Corner of Colorado…!!!!
    The icing for me was the info on the operation of the engine. And your history was right on. Do continue your level of quality, both the video, pic's and narration… And congrats on 10,000 subs.

    Sorry that your trailer seems to have gremlins called tires, frame, springs, heaters, etc. lol

  • Reply Charlie the Tuna June 6, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you, another great video.

  • Reply Michael Morin June 8, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Loved the footage of Engineers Pass. I have a 5.7L Tundra also. How does it tow at the altitudes you were camping in?

  • Reply Kevin Sprague July 6, 2019 at 12:09 am

    Thank you. Something else to put on the agenda. Who knew!!

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